Statement ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
February 15, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in opposition to H.R. 620, which guts the Americans with Disabilities Act. Below is a video and transcript of his remarks:

Click here to watch the full remarks.

“I thank the gentleman for yielding. I rise in strong opposition to this legislation.

“In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared a long overdue independence day for people with disabilities as he signed the historic Americans with Disabilities Act into law. As the House sponsor of the ADA, I shared the President's optimism and hope that ‘every man, woman, and child with disability can now pass through once closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.’

“I was proud to work across the aisle on the ADA and on the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the only time the ADA has ever been amended. We brought together outside groups from a broad range of affiliations to create a framework for policy that would vastly improve accessibility and be agreeable to all.

“Unfortunately, people with disabilities still face stubborn barriers to full inclusion. In the last year, people with differing abilities have had to fight for access to health care and the services they need to live independently and with dignity.

“Now we have on the Floor a bill that would undermine the central tenet of the ADA, the right of victims of discrimination to seek redress for exclusion. Requiring victims of discrimination to provide notice of a violation before bringing a lawsuit is an improper shift of the burden of compliance onto victims – one not required of any other group by any other civil rights law. Not a single civil rights law gives this kind of provision.

“As the Paralyzed Veterans of America wrote in its letter of opposition and I quote, ‘Veterans with disabilities who honorably serve their country, should not bear the burden of ensuring that businesses in their communities are meeting their ADA obligations. Instead it is the responsibility of the business and their associations to educate themselves about the law's requirement.’

“Now this law was passed some 27 years ago. There is no excuse for not knowing the obligations. Our laws do not require such notice for women, African-Americans, Latinos, religious minorities, or any other groups other protected against discrimination.

“I acknowledge that there are issues in states that have added compensatory damages to their state laws. There are no damages in the national ADA law, which was a compromise. A problem with state law, however, should be fixed at the state level and not with a retreat in the federal law.

“Lawyers who file vexatious suits may well be in violation of their ethical obligations. Sadly, we're seeing that almost 28 years after its passage, and decades of notice as to what is required, tax credits so that you can make changes necessary to make your place accessible, there are still those who have barriers to full accommodation for Americans with differing abilities contrary to law.

“In fact, when we adopted the law, we didn't have it go into effect for 24 months, two years, so that people could educate themselves on their responsibilities. People with differing abilities still have to fight day in and day out for the access and inclusion to which they should already be entitled under the law as businesses continue to dismiss their obligations.

“We had a colleague, Senator Tammy Duckworth. She was a helicopter pilot. Her legs were shot off. She now serves in the United States Senate. She's a disabled veteran and an American hero. She wrote the following in the Washington Post about this bill, and I quote, ‘this offensive legislation which would segregate the disability community, making it the only protected class under civil rights law that must rely on education rather than strong enforcement to guarantee access to public spaces.’

“I will be voting no on this legislation in the name of upholding the bedrock principles of civil rights law in this country and the integrity of the ADA  that many of us worked together to enact on a bipartisan basis, an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, 400 votes plus for this legislation.

“Let us not retreat this day. Let us not say to those with disabilities, you've got to wait 180 days. What if we said if you are an African-American and you try to go into a place of public accommodation and they wouldn't admit you and you said, well, I’ve got a complaint. You have to wait 180 days to have that right redressed. That's not right.

“Let's not treat those with disabilities as second-rate citizens. Defeat this bill.”